For many of our clients, and for many of us, we know this pain well. Many of our immigrant clients come from countries where they faced brutal oppression and constant danger. Many of them lost loved ones and don’t know if they’ll ever see their families again. They were irreparably harmed, unceremoniously torn out of joint by people with power. What can be said to them? What can possibly be expressed to provide comfort and peace in the midst of such deep travail?
For many of us, Christmas is a wonderful reminder of all of the gifts we already have. Family, stability, support, and vocation. We can rejoice in these things and feel the well of strength rising within us. For many of the Clinic’s clients, many of these blessings may be in jeopardy or simply absent. For isolated ex-offenders, beleaguered immigrants, domestic violence survivors, and homeless teens, it is difficult to even conceptualize joy. But, many do. Many focus on those things that they do have: family, children, their relationship with Jesus, whatever modicum of stability they do have. They hold on to these things and it gives them strength to carry on.
Sacrifice is an ambiguous concept. But it is not flowery. It is not a dandelion that can be blown any direction we please. Sacrifice is an anchored reality. It is a particular thing that one gives up for some other more beautiful reality. And further, we believe that there was one sacrifice that is the paradigm for all sacrifice; and it happened in the first century in an occupied country to a peasant without a home.
Audrey’s first in-person introduction to the Clinic was through volunteering during Refugee Adjustment Day (RAD Day) in October of 2015. On that day, she witnessed dozens of immigrants and volunteer attorneys and staff working together to submit paperwork to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to help refugees apply for their Legal Permanent Residence. On that day, Audrey remembers entertaining a Congolese woman’s three children, drawing pictures together while their mother worked with an attorney. By late afternoon, the woman’s paperwork was completed and her eyes filled with tears of joy. This experience especially convinced Audrey of the Clinic’s impact. She says, “Once these clients become more than just numbers, when they become faces, become names, when they are personalities that you come to know, it really changes the game. It makes it very personal, very urgent.”
Backward-looking, we sit in awe of the Cross, where cataclysmic injustice was done to justify us. Forward-looking, we set our gaze on the New Heavens and the New Earth, where justice will replace suffering, where peace will replace war, where God will wipe every single tear from our eyes. Christians are people of memory—and we not only remember backwards, but we remember forwards.
What we fear determines what we worship—worship being what we actually do with our thoughts and emotions and body. If I fear being alone, I will do everything in my power to make sure I have companionship. If I fear not having enough money, I will do whatever it takes to make sure I get and keep all that I can. If I fear what people think of me, then I will do whatever it takes to manage my image. We are fearful-beings; we will fear something. The Bible simply tells us to fear God, the only Being worthy of our fear.
At the Clinic, we deal with the legal complexities of suffering in many of its guises. Poverty. Abuse. Betrayal. Relational baggage. Debt. Mental anguish. Homelessness. Death. It’s all there: suffering persistently parading its wares in open mockery of the goodness of God’s creation.
And yet, for James, suffering gets turned on its head. Indeed, for the beleaguered, for victims of injustice who cling to vibrant faith in a God who suffered deeply and traumatically, suffering gets transmuted into something beautiful. Suffering becomes redemptive. Death leads to resurrection.
This year, at Justice For All, we’ll be looking ahead to the Clinic’s next 20 years of service, celebrating the renewal of our communities as we continue our commitment to seek justice for our most vulnerable neighbors.